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Penn State Hoops Takes Down Illinois To Finish Regular Season

Penn State men’s basketball (14-17, 7-13 Big Ten) welcomed Illinois (11-20, 7-13 Big Ten) to the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday afternoon. After a slow start, the Nittany Lions took control of the game thanks to senior Josh Reaves, who put up a career-high 26 points in his final regular season game in Happy Valley.

How It Happened

Josh Reaves opened up the scoring with a three, before tipping in the ball in the paint to give Penn State a 5-3 lead. Illinois’ Giorgi Bezhanishvili scored to even things up at 5-5 as the two squads went into the first media timeout.

Lamar Stevens then started heating up, converting a layup through a foul before getting to the free throw line his next trip down the floor. The Nittany Lions, however, started the contest just 1-10 from beyond the arc and trailed 9-8 with 11:53 remaining in the half.

Illinois went 5-7 from the field on a run that extended its lead to 16-11 before Pat Chambers burned a timeout. Both Bezhanishvili and Kipper Nichols were giving the Nittany Lions issues in the paint.

The first half continued to be low-scoring, as the Illini led Penn State just 16-12 with 7:30 remaining in the half. At the media timeout, Penn State had failed to score for nearly four minutes.

Josh Reaves finally broke the scoring drought with a corner three to bring Penn State’s scoring total to 15. Bezhanishvili responded with an and-one in the paint, however, to give Illinois a seven-point advantage. Reaves continued to have the hot hand, hitting his third triple of the afternoon. Lamar Stevens tied up proceedings with an emphatic slam through a foul with 3:32 remaining in the first period.

The half came to a conclusion as the Illini led 32-31. Josh Reaves led all scorers with 11 points, and Bezhanishvili led the away squad with nine.

Josh Reaves continued his impressive shooting display in the second half, hitting his fourth triple early on in the period. The energy in the building was high after the senior stole a pass and slammed it down at the other end. He was really feeling it from deep, hitting yet another three just minutes later to give the Nittany Lions a 44-39 lead with 15:20 remaining in the game.

The Penn State defense was suffocating, forcing seven steals and two blocks by the 11:50 mark in the second half. At the media timeout, Penn State led 51-41.

Pat Chambers’ squad didn’t take its collective foot off of the proverbial gas pedal, leading 59-48 with 6:25 remaining in the second half. The Nittany Lions maintained a nine-point advantage with just 3:31 remaining as the Illini went on a 1-7 shooting drought from the field.

There wasn’t much in the way of scoring as the game came to a close. Illinois failed to score for 2:53 and Penn State failed to score for 3:46. Josh Reaves came off to a standing ovation in his final game at the Bryce Jordan Center and was replaced by Deivis Zemgulis who hit a deep three as time expired.

Reaves finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and four steals in a fantastic display.


  • No matter how poorly they shoot from beyond the arc, the Nittany Lions are happy to keep the threes flying. Although it was tough to watch in the first half, the threes starting falling in the second.
  • Josh Reaves was the difference in this game. His efficiency from beyond the arc was incredible and his defensive performance forced the Illini into a number of mistakes.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will head to Chicago for the Big Ten Tournament, which begins on Wednesday, March 13.

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About the Author

Derek Bannister

Derek is a senior majoring in Economics and History. He is legally required to tell you that he's from right outside of Philly. Email Derek compliments and dad-jokes at [email protected].

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